Under the the standard-form contract for sale of land in Western Australia, known as the Contract for Sale of Land or Strata Title by Offer and Acceptance, you are entitled to one inspection of the property at a mutually-agreeable time during the week before settlement. If you identify problems that need fixing, you can request the seller allow another inspection to check these problems have been fixed. The seller is not obliged to grant a further inspection. However, it is not uncommon for sellers to allow a second inspection.
What to look for
At the pre-settlement inspection, double-check that the property is in the same condition it was when you signed the contract, and that any special conditions have been satisfied. This is not the time to add new conditions. The seller is only obliged to satisfy what is in the signed contract. In a nutshell:
- Is everything that was in working order still in working order?
- Are the goods mentioned in the contract still on the property?
- Has anything been damaged (other than through fair wear and tear)?
- Is there a substantial amount of rubbish left on the property that needs removal before you take ownership?
- Have the sellers (or tenants, if applicable) actually vacated the property?
What if there’s a problem?
If you identify a problem that could be classified as minor and not in contravention of your contract, you are probably not entitled to delay settlement or withhold any funds at settlement. Sometimes these problems are borne out of a misunderstanding or can be easily rectified if you raise them. Check with your settlement representative whether the problem you have identified fits into that category.
If you identify other problems seek legal advice before you act. As your independent lawyers and settlement agents we are well equipped to help you. Contact us to book a consultation. The course of action you choose will depend on your circumstances. If the seller is in breach of the contract you may have the right to delay settlement and take default action.
By agreement with the seller you may pay an agreed amount of the purchase price into a trust account. Settlement can then proceed without delay and the dispute can be resolved afterwards. For this scenario to be effective, the terms upon which the retained monies are held must be clear.
In these situations, penalty interest for delayed settlement is likely to be an issue.